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John Foxx: The Quiet Man (2009) August 16, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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John Foxx: The Quiet Man

John Foxx: The Quiet Man

The remarkably productive John Foxx has now had four CD releases this year, and more are expected. The Quiet Man isn’t a conventional musical release, though; it’s somewhere between an ambient music album and an audiobook.

Since early in his solo career Foxx has been writing short, surreal pieces of fiction about the Quiet Man. He’s reportedly been working them into a book, due possibly this year, but in the meantime, he’s recorded a an album of ambient music with Quiet Man texts read by Justin Barton. Foxx himself read part of the material on a previous CD, but apparently felt the anonymity of the Quiet Man character would be aided by having someone with a London accent, rather than Foxx’s northern accent, reading the material.

The Quiet Man is an odd album to listen to. You can’t just listen to it as music because the focus of the recording is on the spoken words. But the surreal nature of many of the stories, and the quiet ambient music in the background, make it easy at times to drift away and forget to listen closely enough. I’m tempted to listen to it with a printout of the relevant texts available on the Metamatic website, to focus my concentration and see if there are differences between the written and recorded versions.

If there’s an ideal listener out there who hasn’t yet heard of John Foxx, that person would probably be someone who enjoys reading J.G. Ballard’s short stories while listening to Harold Budd. For people who are already fans, buying it shouldn’t take much thought. As I posted on the Metamatic forum, it’s a remarkable work. The Quiet Man isn’t something new; it’s always been there in the background, little excerpts showing up here and there over the years, but this is the most sustained exposure we’ve had to it yet. Foxx’s lyrics, and the track titles of his instrumental pieces, have always been strongly evocative, instantly generating images in the mind’s eye. The Quiet Man draws those words and images together, linking the seemingly disparate grey concrete world of Metamatic and the lush and verdant world of The Garden, among others, while also giving me a lot of flashbacks to reading JG Ballard, walking alone through unfamiliar cities, being lost in movies…

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